How to Host a Silent Retreat for Your Team.
September is typically an incredibly busy time of year in the lives of church leaders. Programs are starting … all the people who have been away for the summer come back to church and that adds some strain on the systems. Once again we’re faced with the reality that our reach is beyond our grasp … that we require God to step in and intervene on our behalf to accomplish what he is asking us to do.
This year I wanted to change the dialogue for our team and not just hit the fall running harder than we’ve ever run before. We hosted an optional day of fasting, prayer and silence right in the middle of September … literally in the midst of our busiest time … to help my team get away and refocus their lives on Christ in the middle of this nutty season. I couldn’t have been more happy with how it turned out. We challenged each other to an entire day of silence because as church leaders we are constantly communicating to other people. Corporate fasting has been a part of the story of Liquid but I wanted to challenge my team to also take some new steps through being silent for a day … to tune out our own voice and tune into the voice of God.
“This silent retreat was just what I needed to break the cycle of long hours and work busyness I was caught up in that week. At first my mind was too noisy to take anything in, but after spending several hours outside in the pleasant and peaceful surroundings, I began to sense God all around me. The one thought that kept coming to me is “I need this.” – not just that day, but regularly. In the end, although I didn’t hear a profound word from God, He used the time to help me open my heart back up to Him so I could hear Him powerfully in the days following.” – Beth
“At first I felt guilty for falling asleep for an hour…but then I realized, ‘hey, physical rest actually helped to ease my mind and have better focus on God that day!'” – Katie
It starts with the invite //
A part of the purpose of the day was to break up the routine of the fall. I wanted to start this theme right from when I first invited the team. Rather than just the “typical” email invite to the team I emailed out a “teaser” video email of a woman inviting the team to the silent retreat but using only sign language to communicate. The following day everyone received a tube delivered to their home with invite looking like it was on parchment, an empty lunch bag (symbolizing fasting), a calligraphy pen (symbolizing journalling) and a clothes pin (symbolizing silence). Then a few days after that everyone was emailed a “what to expect” document that had all the details of the event. This roll out to team punched through the flurry of normal emails that hits our team … and indicated that this was going to be a different day.
Location sets the tone //
I wanted to take my team out of the normal and put them into an environment that would challenge them to think different. We ended up at a place called the Pines at Tuscarora. [see pictures here] The location was perfect … about an hour from our office and it felt like we had travelled to Middle Earth to Bilbo Baggins home. It set the tone that we were in for something special that day.
Help people experience the day //
My assumption was that most of the team has never experienced a day like this in the past. I wanted to make sure that we normalized the experience and make it as accessible as possible. The day before the retreat I asked people to leave their cel phones at home (or at least turn them off when they got to the location.) When they arrived I led a simple conversation about what to expect for the day. They received a notebook, a pencil and a copy of “The Way of the Heart” for fuel to read during the day. The location was large enough (inside and out) for the team to spread out and find a space that worked for them. We pulled back together in the late afternoon for a debrief session. I led another simple conversation about what people had learned or experienced during the day. After than we went to dinner together (at the retreat center) … we had a fun time “breaking the fast and silence” together!
Resources to Help You Host a Retreat //
- Invite Mailer // 11×17 invite that looks like it’s on parchment … burn the edges for an extra effect! [68.9 meg .PSD file]
- Invite Supplies // Links to the pieces used to package up the invite mailer: [Mailing Tubes] [Lunch Bags] [Calligraphy Pens] [Clothes Pins]
- Invite Video // Download and edit to suit your needs. [19.4 meg .MOV file]
- What to Expect // Edit document up with your details and help prep your people. [Word Document]
- Email Graphics // A couple matching pieces so your emails look the same as the mailer. [Header Graphic] [Footer Graphic]
- Book // Read Henri Nouwen’s book “The Way of the Heart” to prep to lead the day … and then give your people a copy of this fantastic book. [Amazon Link]
- Journal & Pencil // Give people something to track their conversation with God through the day. [Pocket sized journals] [Mechanical Pencils]
[If you host a silent retreat … even just for yourself … I’d love you to share your learnings here!]